The pipes, the pipes are calling

As tends to happen when you start drinking during the afternoon, conversation with friends - some of them expats, others not - veered towards the philosophical the other night.

Mr C couldn't understand why Ms J considered herself a Kiwi-Scottish-Irish- English hybrid: not when she was a fourth-generation Southlander.

He was, he said, an Englishman - even if there was a smattering of Belgian and French somewhere along the branches of his family tree.

The black-clad folk on the barstools (it was game day, after all) concluded that, given our own country's comparably fresh history, we're more likely to identify with a variety of nationalities.

Even if we've never set foot in the places we feel akin to.

When many OEers first arrive in Europe, their cameras quickly fill with pictures of churches - any church, any church at all - and other ancient-looking buildings.

After a while that goggly-eyed awe lessens. But sometimes history steamrolls you again.

I was lucky enough to land a job only a few days after arriving here in London; what was meant to be six weeks has turned into a permanent gig.

A gig that doesn't force me to sacrifice weekends (ideal) and the opportunity to wear shoes as high as I can manage (bad for the feet, but fun nevertheless).

(The one, one time I remember wearing a kitten heel-and-skirt combo as a reporter, I had to jump aboard and climb a bunch of stairs on a docked navy ship. This is why I don't play Lotto.)

It doesn't always happen, but some mornings - as I struggle to balance a latte with my swipe card and inevitably rain-splattered handbag - I can't help but feel impressed.

I walk through the revolving glass doors at the front of the building, past the top-hat-and-tails-wearing doormen.

I step onto the bisecting glass escalators in the centre of the building.

I peer down admiringly as the Lloyd's of London Underwriting Room shrinks below.

I am very much a cog: unlikely to be on the top floor when Boris, the PM or even the English rugby coaches Are In The Building.

(Unless I am lost. Which is highly probable.)

Lloyd's is such a British institution and, although I am easily befuddled by its complexities, the history and traditions are quite special to witness first-hand. The marking of Remembrance Day earlier this month was one of those moments.

Looking at the inside of Lloyd's is like slicing off the upper section of an ant hill. Everybody's moving quickly, because that's just what happens in London. The multi-layered glass atrium means that, wherever you are, you always have a view of people scurrying in all directions.

So to see it fall silent - it's estimated 5000 people were at the commemoration ceremony, watched by hundreds more gathered on the unmoving escalators or around the outside edges of the atrium - was striking.

Several of the "waiters" - staff members most easily described as similar to a concierge, in charge of ensuring everything runs smoothly - laid wreaths before the grand Book of Remembrance.

A bugler sounded out The Last Post and Reveille.

The 106-pound Lutine Bell, the centrepiece of the Room, was struck to mark two minutes silence.

Originally on board a French frigate that surrendered to the British in the Napoleonic Wars, the bell was seemingly lost when, six years later, the HMS Lutine sank off the Dutch coast. The ship was carrying gold and silver bullion insured by Lloyd's underwriters for [PndStlg]1 million - all of which was paid out.

In 1859, the bell was salvaged and it has hung in successive Rooms ever since. Traditionally it was sounded once for bad news, twice for good, although these days it usually marks a special occasion.

It was a moving tribute. As always, when the bagpipes rang out, my throat caught. This time, though, there was an extra cause for emotion.

That stirring drone didn't make me think of Scotland, the generations-back origin of my mother's surname, or whether I consider myself - at least in part - to "come from" the land of heather and highlands.

It made me think of home.

The Southland Times